January 30, 2012

Our Great Heritage

Because Civil War facial hair is exempt from the harsh judgment of The Beard Review Board, I am pleased to present this solemn and respectful historical study courtesy of The Two Man Gentleman Band:

January 28, 2012

18 Years In The Boonies Taught Me What Manure Smells Like

Perhaps you hear the rich, well-pickled chortles emerging from Fabulist Heaven, as Orson Welles gets a load of this:

Here's the story:
Authentic American Civil War footage shot by French experimental photographer and inventor Léon-Alexandre Cànular (1810 - 1896) using a single lens camera that he had devised. It is one of the earliest examples of motion picture and the first with war as the subject matter. Shot at 16-18 frames per second, only photographic copies of parts of the paper filmstrip exist today.

The subject matter is thought to be The Army of Northern Virginia advancing thought Maryland prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. This footage was preserved by the National Film Registry in 1991 for being ''a historically significant film.''

You have to give credit where credit is due for a really well-executed piece of connerie.  (That's French for "bullshit."  Related: "Cànular" is French for "hoax.")

Here's the source footage, from a 2008 Civil War reenactment:
(The relevant bit starts at about 1:25.)

(I would love to take credit for tracking down the video this was sourced from, but I found that information online, from this thread among others.)

January 26, 2012

Five Songs: Reuse, Recycle

Five Songs is an occasional SMLTS feature consisting of thematically-grouped lists of five songs that I like and feel like finding an excuse to post. This is not a scientific poll, a critical argument, or anything that takes much work. THIS IS A LAZY STRUCTURAL GIMMICK. Nevertheless, you will probably feel the need to argue because this is a list and that's what lists are for.

One of those quotes that's so wonderful nobody seems to attribute it properly, although it's usually credited either to Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong, holds that there are only two kinds of music: Good and bad.  (Or, if you're currently in the honky tonk from The Blues Brothers, country AND western.)

One place where genre manifests itself most aggressively is in the distinction between a cover and a standard.  It's not just about the high concentration of singer/songwriter types in rock--even when a jazz artist performs and popularizes his own music... well, we don't think of "Sophisticated Lady" being "covered." 

Conversely, there are maybe a few rock songs that qualify as standards...  the great three-chord bash 'em out classics like "Gloria" or "Louie, Louie."  I mean, you could write a book about "Louie, Louie."  (Yours would be at least the third on the subject, though.)

HELPFUL CULTURAL OBSERVATION: If you are ever unsure of the gender of a Boomer, get them on the subject of "Gloria."  99.9% of guys assume you mean--you know, GLORIA.  G. L. O. ARRRRR-EYE-A!  80% of women will assume you're talking about Laura Branigan.  It's true!  I made those statistics up the the most scientifically invalid way possible!

Anyway...  there's sort of a whiff about the cover, at least in some quarters, because it is inherently derivative.  But taking an existing cultural artifact and running with it?  There's some hacker/maker cred there, surely.

And sometimes, it just sounds good.  Which is the point of recording music, yes?

So, with a complete lack of further ado, here are five really good covers.

1).  "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
Al Green
I will own up to having quaffed deeply of the Zuckerbergian Kool Aid.  You're reading this post because Reverend Al's take on "I Want To Hold Your Hand" showed up in my Facebook newsfeed this evening, reminding me afresh HOW MUCH FREAKING BUTT THIS KICKS, and thus inspiring some general rumination on covers because I ruminate recreationally.

Really.  If you're not computer-dancing within thirty seconds of firing this up, there is something seriously wrong with you.

2). "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"   
J.C. Brooks & the Uptown Sound

Completely counter to the spirit of the Wilco original.  And yet, more or less by force of will, it totally works.  

3). "I'm On Fire"
Johnny Cash

Only Johnny Cash was allowed to say "it's like someone took a knife baby edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley in the middle of my skull."  Because he meant it.

4). "Our World"
My Morning Jacket

So, I have this obsessive and possibly unhealthy love of Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas.  (Because: Adorable singing otters.  Also, a porcupine whose quills poke through his coat!)  I am deeply grateful to My Morning Jacket for giving me year-round carte blanche to enjoy the songwriting of the criminally underrated Paul Williams.

5). "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys"
The Reigning Sound

Sure, it's really a breakup song, but to me, it's my personal soundtrack at baby showers.  Maaaan, the moment the plastic fetus ice cubes* show up, I begin to seriously consider seceding from my gender.

*Yes, this is a real thing that happened.  See, the fetuses melted out of their ice cubes, and whoever's fetus escaped first won this superfun par-tay game because "their water broke."  I'm pretty sure baby showers are meant to make childbirth look less painful by comparison, especially since they at least have the decency to offer you drugs for the latter.  

Slightly off-theme, but fascinating....  Here's one of those things that you would never independently guess but makes total sense: "Outside Chance" is an early Warren Zevon composition.  ("Stone walls surround me / I'm surprised that you even found me..." yep, that has Warren written all over it!)

OK, Now I Almost Feel Sorry For The Man...

You know how they always tell parents to consider what their children's initials will spell out?

Just think how many people within the campaign would've had to have seen this idea before it hit the web.  And either nobody noticed, or someone secretly did. I'm not sure which possibility delights me more.

I swear, this is actually a real thing.

But it's still not as embarrassing as Rick's ridiculous sweater vests.

January 25, 2012

Dear Bobby Flay,

"Chipotle" is a three syllable word.

"Chip-Oat-A-Lay" is still completely available as a brand name for some indigestible "healthy" snack chip.  Go for it, man.

A Moment Of High Culture

So, there are these mostly tongue-in-cheek lyrics for the Morning Edition theme song making the rounds.

My thoughts upon seeing this were twofold:

1). There's a reason that I suddenly remembered the oft-repeated bit of wisdom in the public radio world that there's funny and then there's NPR funny.
2). The lyrics to the All Things Considered theme, of course, are as follows:


January 24, 2012

The Exceptional Contest TM

The NFC and AFC champs have been determined, and now we prepare for what retailers these days are obliged to refer to as "The Big Game."  What will the poor dears do if the NFL decides to copyright "The Big Game"?  Shall it be an endless game of Reversi, the league seizing the rights to each new sobriquet until finally thinking better of claiming "The Long, Dull Competition With A Comically Terrible Halftime Show And Two To Three Reasonably Clever Commercials To Break Up The Monotony Of Overwrought Graphics Packages"?

But never mind.  I'll be watching, of course,  unable to control the urge to do a really bad imitation of Eric Cartman imitating Edward James Olmos, which my viewing companions will put up with because I cook delicious snack food.

And, actually, I'll even be rooting for the Patriots, because the Mannings annoy me.  As sports loyalty rationales go, it's not bad reasoning, really.   Here's a partial ranking of the pros and cons justifying my arbitrary love/hate of a team:

1). Do I live in the home city of the team in question?

2). We are assuming it's football, right?  Because hockey is that thing that screws up rush hour traffic, and then there's that thing with the stick and the plates that the local fellows don't seem to excel at so much.  And basketball, which we don't have and I sucked at in gym class and therefore is irrelevant.

3). Do any of my friends hail from the city in question?

4). Have I ever had a really good meal in the city in question?   (If Austin ever gets a pro football team... I'll have to think long and hard about where my loyalties lie.)

5). Do I know any lame quasi-hipster wastrels who walk around in a stupid ballcap bearing the logo of the team in question?

6). Did any member of the team, or his family, give the impression of being kind of a jackass during his run at the NFL Draft?    EVEN MORE EXTRA CREDIT: Sheesh!  Projection much?

Anyway. I will root for the Patriots. Not just because of the Manning thing! That would be silly. It is also partially because I like clam chowder and have always wanted to visit Boston.

January 19, 2012

But Hey Now, You Don't Feel Better As You Wake And Slowly Rise

I slept spottily, rose early, and have had this song stuck in my head all day.

(See, I can find a song for any occasion.  As superpowers go, it's not much good for crimefighting, but it's way cooler than talking to fish like Aquaman.)

Sophie has figured out a surprisingly large number of ways to express the idea that we have forgotten Ian somewhere.  I had a hell of a time getting her out of a kitchen cabinet last night.  (I've looked everywhere else.  He's got to be here!)  After some pointed sniffing in his favorite corner this morning, she settled down in the hallway to stare at me, huddled up in an incredibly round pile, recalling nothing so much as Sushi Cat.
Sushi Cat is famously relentless
in matters of sidekick pursuit.

By midday, she'd retired to my bed. I regretted terribly that I'd started laundering bedlinens this morning... could have waited.  It's never easy to make a bed when there's a cat in the house, and today's super-territorial Sophie was exhibiting an excellent grasp of nonviolent protest tactics, falling limp to hinder removal, returning to her chosen spot a la Zuccotti Park.

But I managed to negotiate a truce with Occupy Bed.  As she settled down on the freshly-washed comforter, I moved some things around in the room. Without thinking, I took a moment to hold Ian's collar. I realized, as I was putting it away, that Sophie was watching.

Sophie is very clingy this evening, and that's OK with me.

January 18, 2012

Goodnight, My Friend

When you're making big decisions on someone else's behalf, you want--more than anything you've ever wanted--to know how they feel.  And when the being in question is a sweet little furball, you can't ask.  You just have to know.

Ian had a reasonable weekend.  Not great, by any means.  He plunked himself down in the corner by the heat register.  We consolidated his favorite toys and blanket in that one place.  Saturday wasn't bad.  Sunday night was rough. Monday was a bit better.  But this afternoon, things changed.  Quickly.

You're never ready for the moment when it comes, when you know.

You don't want to know.  You want to be wrong.  You want to be very, very, very wrong.  You want the kitty to look at you with big, clear eyes that say "What on Earth were you so upset about?" as he bounds out of your arms to chase imaginary butterflies.

What the kitty is doing is wheezing, and not drinking, and not moving much. You know.

I called the vet.  We bundled him into the carrier again, enlisted the bestest friend ever to come drive him again, and took him back to the office.

After a quick check of his vitals, it was clear that the little man was failing.  We could have started some procedures, and maybe bought him some time.  But not good time.  Ian was, quite simply, worn out.

I will spare you the sad details, except to say that he passed away, peacefully, in my arms.    

Ian had an incredibly long and wonderful life.  I'm so grateful that he found us, of all the people in the world.  I will never cease to be amazed and thankful that his health was so very good until quite recently.  I'm glad we had that last weekend with him.

This house seems so very empty tonight.


January 17, 2012

It's The Little Things. (Well, The Big Things Ain't Too Bad Either...)

Best feeling in the world: Getting the phone call from the vet with the news that Ian absolutely, positively does NOT have cancer, and I can drop by and get him some medication to ease his symptoms.  Some drops, plus half a pill daily.

Second best feeling in the world: Getting home and opening the pill bottle to find that the tablets have already been sliced in half.

January 15, 2012

Citizens United For Fully-Committed Satirical Performance Art

The latest product of the unspeakably brilliant Colbert Super PAC--er, The Definitely Not Coordinated With Stephen Colbert Super PAC.  This ad is really, truly, honest-to-gosh running in South Carolina, and is totally restoring my faith in humanity.

A Brief Observation On E-Commerce

Over the years, I've bought maybe half a dozen books from Alibris.  I don't know what special sauce is in the algorithm they use to generate sale emails, but it consistently suggests stuff I actually do want to purchase.  The last email I got from them was perhaps too good--every single book was one I own or used to own: Katharine Graham's Personal History, Patrick Dennis' The Joyous Season, The Joy of Cooking.  And Tuesdays With Morrie, which I donated to Goodwill when I became annoyed with Mitch Albom.  I'm sure he totally felt my opprobrium.

Meanwhile, Amazon, which has received a ludicrously high proportion of my disposable income over the last decade and thus should have enough data to send me what I want for breakfast before I know I'm hungry, continues to send me ads for athletic shoes and blue jeans.  (Nothing wrong with either, if that happens to be your bag.  Just sayin', in my case, direct marketing fail.)

January 13, 2012

...That's Why They Call It The Present

Ian has been asleep in front of the heat register most of the evening.

This is the thing I am most grateful for in this cold little world tonight.

The little guy has slowed down a lot in the past few years.  He is, after all, seventeen and a half (almost exactly).  He gets scooped up at bedtime and taken upstairs, scooped up in the morning and taken downstairs.  He gets baths, because the fastidious little gentleman isn't so flexible as he used to be and can't groom himself very well.

Nevertheless, he enjoys life.

He eats like a horse.  An unusually messy horse.  He likes his glucosamine supplements dissolved in melted vanilla bean ice cream, and will sulk mightily if I forget to reorder and he has to make do with just plain ice cream for a few days.

He has his routine.  He has very distinct preferences in food, blankets, schedules.  He has a small collection of little stuffed animals that he loves as fervently as any toddler loves his teddy bear.  You don't know the meaning of cute overload until you've seen a sleeping Persian hugging his Splat the Cat.

He has a few favorite hangout spots in the living room, which he cycles through. Most of the winter, you can find him curled up in front of that heating grate, making his patented happy noises. (These are quite distinct from--and sometimes concurrent with--purrs.)

The last few days, the happy noises had stopped.  An audible wheezing took hold.  He was still eating and drinking and taking care of the resultant processes with no problem. But he was not well.

I made some frantic phone calls this afternoon, first to see whether the nearest vet could take us (yes), then to line up a ride.  Not easy on a weekday afternoon, and with some extenuating circumstances limiting my options, it was with intense relief and gratitude that I finally found one of my friends could take us over.  He hastened over with such dedication that he forgot that Secondmost Street is one way.  We managed to load up people and cat carrier quickly, then to back the car onto 40th without getting hit or ticketed.

We easily found The Big Easy Animal Hospital despite the fact that I had forgotten my map printout at home.

Ian sat patiently in the cat carrier as I filled out paperwork.  He snuggled down on the microfleece throw I'd placed in the bottom of the carrier, alert but mostly unconcerned.  Me?  My hands were shaking so badly that the nice lady at the front desk had to check back with me on a couple of things I'd written.

This was hands-down the friendliest, lowest-stress, pretense-free veterinary practice I've ever been in.  (Oddly enough, I'd give second place to the emergency clinic in the North Hills, though--no offense to the awesome staff therein--I hope never to visit again.)  Every single person in the place was friendly and genuinely concerned about all of the animals who came in.  Clearly pet people, not just people who happened to find a job at a veterinary practice.  

In a short time, we brought Ian back to an examination room.  This cat has always been a giant flirt.  Serious ladies' man.  He was in his element, getting fussed over by the veterinary assistants and then the vet herself.  He took an instant liking to the boatlike scale, and stayed there comfortably through much of the exam.  (The vet was content to leave him there as long as was feasible; I recognized and liked the cat owner's instinct that says it's best to just accommodate the feline whim where possible.)

With graciousness, he allowed himself to be prodded and listened to and peered at.

The news was mixed.  He had some odd heart sounds, but not excessively high blood pressure.  He is now blind in one eye.  Some of the scarier possibilities had to be examined.  They took him back for x-rays.

Mom and I waited in the exam room.

Seventeen and a half.  Quite a run for a cat.  You get to thinking about The Circle Of Life and all that.  "When Ian was born," I said, "Newt Gingrich was six months away from becoming Speaker of the House."

"Nice try.  I'm still not letting you off the hook on the Triple Crown."  (The running joke has been that my birth jinxed it.  I'm pretty sure it's a joke, though I take the precaution of mixing the Derby Day juleps by myself, thankyouverymuch.)

We shared memories of Ian in his salad days, when he used to herd people and nip ankles, when he was a fluffy kitten whose apparent bulk halved upon being picked up.

Soon, the little man was carried back.  The vet showed us the x-rays: There was fluid around his lungs.  This could mean a whole lot of things in the long term, but tonight, much of the fluid could be drained and Ian would come home with us.

He certainly never seems to have had any doubt.

As we waited in the lobby while another friend dropped everything to come rescue my cat (do I have the best peeps in the world or what?), I reached into the carrier.  Ian settled his torso on my hand.  I felt the welcome vibration of a purr.  Softly, so softly, I heard his happy noises.

I'm keenly aware of his advanced age, his increasing frailty, the way his world is becoming smaller and quieter and darker.  But his world is, for now, cozy and pleasant.  He trusts.  He knows he is loved.  He has never known what it is to be other than loved.

Every day with this eccentric, bossy little furball had been a gift.  I feel that more keenly than ever.  He is a dear, loving, trusting little soul.  I'm grateful for every good moment he is given.  He's certainly given me the world.

January 10, 2012

Fun With Traffic Sources

Oh, the things people type into search engines....  Here are some ways people have been washed from The Tubes onto the Secondmost shores of late:

buttered tabby cat (two hits from this one)
Look, I am second to none in my fandom of butter and tabby cats as discrete entities, but I'm pretty leery about the combination.

a woman i saw in fortnum and mason on december 29th
This is about five words away from a successful pitch for a terrible Jennifer Aniston romcom.  If this happens, I WANT A CUT.

But, good luck to you.  Bet there's a good story there.

crazy ass squirrel
As opposed to the sane, quiet, reserved squirrels that do not to my knowledge exist?  Hence the word "squirrelly"?  SQUIRRELS ARE ALL ENDEARING, LOVABLE, BUT UTTERLY UNHINGED, MUCH LIKE AMY SEDARIS.  This is what they do.  You are welcome.

Really.  Just "Consol."  I can't even imagine what page of the search results this must have come up in.  But we of The Nation of Secondmost salute you, intrepid Googler.

Oh Come On Internet, Do I Have To Pluck All The Low-Hanging Fruit Myself?

No votes for Santorum in Dixville Notch.

Oh geez, it really IS too easy, isn't it?

January 9, 2012

Completely Impartial Cultural Observations

The Pittsburgh Jazz Society is back in full swing, and last night's show at the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy was a fabulous debut of the new meeting location.  And wow was that an excellent playoff game to miss.  I'm not gonna lie, we were keeping tabs on the carnage via iPhone during the show.  Ow.

Anyway, the "speakeasy" part is in the cozy, atmospheric lower level...  the food's quite yummy, though personally I shall be giving the peanut butter wings a pass from here on out, YMMV.  Oh, and you've got to love this, the menu covers are old LP sleeves from the WDUQ library.  (When we left our old building, Des Places hall, most of the vinyl records were sold to Jerry's.  My sentimental attachment to dead media is not untempered by an appreciation of creative reuse.)

The place was packed, and we had a great time listening to the Lucarelli Brothers, with the glute-kickin' Lou Schreiber dropping in partway through the set.  Next Sunday, The Kevin Howard Quartet, 6-9 PM.  Come on down...  and get there early if you want a seat!

January 7, 2012

Dear Rick: In Regards To Your Frothy Mix Of Prose

This never gets old.
Rick, bubbeleh, I don't think you and I are ever going to hoist a few at Piper's.

The reasons for this are manifold, but high on the list is my strong suspicion that you read The Handmaid's Tale and thought it was aspirational fantasy, a sort of wingnut Harry Potter.

Now, you have pooh-poohed the idea that you wish to make birth control less accessible as a matter of policy, in response to a recent Salon story which made the admittedly adventuresome move of taking your statements at face value.  You now say that "the idea I’m coming after your birth control is absurd. I was making a statement about my moral beliefs, but I won’t impose them on anyone else in this case. I don’t think the government should be involved in that. People are free to make their own decisions."

Rick, for future reference, the way the Internet works is that we can actually watch and listen to the interview in question.

Now, let's skip for a moment your incredibly narcissistic take on fatherhood (especially the bit starting around 17:00), except to note that you must clearly believe in some free health care, having generously provided us with this fab appetite suppressant!  No, we shall stay on task.  Scoot over to 17:35, and you'll hear this:

Can we pass bills?  Yeah.  I'll work on trying to pass bills. I'll work on trying to make the laws in this country more friendly to life.  I'll repeal all funding of abortion.  We'll repeal Obamacare and get rid of any kind of idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraception coverage.  One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country.  The whole sexual libertine idea.  Many in the Christian faith have said, 'well, that's OK, I mean, you know, contraception is OK,' It's not OK. It's a license to, uh, to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage, they're supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal, but also... procreative, and that's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen.  We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. If you can take one part out, that it's not for the purposes of procreation, it's not--it's not-- one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can't you take other parts of it out?  And all of a sudden it becomes deconstructed to the point where it's simply pleasure.  And that's certainly a part of it, and it's an important part of it, don't get me wrong--but there's a lot of things we do for pleasure.  And, uh, this is special, and it needs to be seen as special. Again, I know most Presidents don't talk about those things, and maybe people don't want us to talk about those things, uh, but I think it's important that you are who you are.  I'm not, you know, I'm not running for preacher, I'm not running for pastor.  But these are important public policy issues.  These have profound impact on the health of our society.  Now I'm not talking about moral health, uh, although clearly moral health.  But I'm talking economic health, I'm talking about out-of-wedlock birth rates, sexually transmitted diseases, all of these other things.  These are profound issues that we only like to talk about it from a scientific point of view.  Well, that's one point of view.  But we also need to have the courage to talk about the, uh, moral aspects of it, and uh, sort of the purpose, the reason, the rationale for why we do what we do.

Here's the thing, Rick: I believe you.  I believe you meant every last one of those words.

I believe you live in a handstand, upside-down kind of world where the solution to STDs and out-of-wedlock births is to restrict access to safe birth control.  I believe that you honestly think that everyone should enjoy playing Fertility Lotto as much as you do.  I believe that you regard science as a "point of view." I believe you feel that pursuing pleasure and intimacy for its own sake is something to be apologized for.  I believe that you think personal moral decisions should be treated as policy issues.

I can't speak for the people of New Hampshire, but I suspect being a vendor of this nonsense is at least partially responsible for your big 8% showing in a state that has "Live Free or Die" on its license plates.
Serving Suggestion

I can speak for myself, though.  Rick, you can pry my Mirena out of my cold, dead...  we're gonna go with hands.

January 6, 2012

In Which The Wrong Tree Is Barked Up

Somehow--it is quite beyond me how--I ended up on a database of young parents.

I know this because that what the letters from CMU said, the ones that started arriving several weeks ago, urging me to enroll my mythical (but doubtlessly exceptional in every way) infant in a research study.

As someone who has conscientiously guarded her nulliparous state, this came as a surprise.   I chuckled a bit at the first letter, then really started a-head-scratchin' at the second and third.  Was it the toys I ordered for an ex's nephew a couple of Christmases ago?  I mean, that probably explains why I get the Lands End Kids catalog...  but how did I get mistaken for a mother by so illustrious an institution as CMU?  Weird.

Oh, it gets better.

I received a postcard today from a prominent local private school--the one that sounds like a relative of the snooty doctor on M*A*S*H?  They want me to come to an open house so I can see what advantages a pricey private education can offer my completely illusory spawn.  It addresses me as "Miss," a title which I loathe almost as much as the idea of sending my offspring to private school.  (Not to criticize anyone else's choice; whatever works for your family is what you should choose, blah blah blah...  but no imaginary child of mine is going to--yeah, see?  This is why I shouldn't breed.)

It's all a good laugh, at least until the truant officer shows up.

Handle With Care

You do not know the meaning of "hate on" until you see my tabby cat after I have put flea stuff on her neck.  How that precious little face sets into the cold mien of a predator! How those vibrant green eyes start to look... reptilian? Her long, striped body compacts into a formidable-looking wall of fur-bound fury. I absent myself, quickly.  Forgiveness will come.

Sophie's always been a bit more high-maintenance than the typical pet.  When she showed up on my back porch ten years ago, she was so frighteningly skinny that I felt bones in her that I didn't know cats had.  And as time went on, her reactions to hands and (specifically bare) feet made it clear that she'd been conditioned to expect other than kind treatment from people.

So she's always merited a little extra understanding.  A little extra gentleness.

She has learned that she can count on a soft touch from my hand.  (And she has my full support when she rips into he kind of clueless jerk who knows she was abused but still tries to horse around with her.  "She bit me!"  No shit, moron.)

She actually seeks me out, nuzzles my fingers, tips her chin expectantly.  I scratch.  She purrs.  Abruptly, she has had enough and runs away.  Still on guard.  Is a lifetime enough to recover from having been someone's punching bag?

Her formerly gaunt frame has given way over the years to something resembling those old agricultural trade paintings of cows, the ones meant to illustrate how much valuable tallow you could obtain from the beast in question.  Sophie does not do moderation.  She sits in front of a bowl of cat food and eats with a single-minded determination unseen since the last time I went to one of those places that sells steamed crabs by the dozen.  But she has learned to leave Ian's food alone, mostly.  I won't say she's the most social of animals, but she knows now that she's safe, and that there's plenty of food for everybody.

She doesn't seek out fights, for the most part.  (Except with Turducken.)

She is fascinated by the television.  She loves football. Ballerinas scare her. Figure that one out.

She does not, DOES NOT, approve of becoming wet.

But right now, the nape of her neck is moist with flea repellent. In between mad bathing fits, she gives me dirty, dirty looks.

She has learned to trust, guardedly.  She sleeps around my feet most nights. By the time I go to bed, the small indignity of the wet neck will have been forgotten. She'll look at me, bored, yawn, and go to sleep. Safe.

Not For Internal Consumption

The Comedy Gods continue to bestow us with fabulous headlines.
(And, all kidding aside, this is a wonderfully well-written and thoughtful column.)

January 5, 2012

Five Songs: Year Of The Horse (And The Bee)

There's this gimmick making the rounds of Facebook as of late...  you're supposed to find the song that was #1 on the Billboard charts the week you were born, and then post the video to your wall "without shame."  

Well, here it is, with just the eeensiest hint of shame.  I mean, as post-Beatles Macca goes, this isn't exactly the shining moment....  but if you don't mind savoring a little cheese and have the ability to ignore awful synthesizers, it's not half bad.  (And if you lacked the ability to ignore awful synthesizers, the early 80s were lying in wait, clad in torn t-shirts and leg warmers, ready to go all Karate Kid on you to the tune of "What A Feeling.")

Of course, nothing says "ROCK AND ROOOOOOLLLLLLL!!!!!!!" quite like jamming out in front of what appears to be an extraordinarily large potted ficus.

And let us pause to remember fondly the patron saint of spouse-humorers, the vocally unique Linda McCartney...  also, [WRITE YOUR OWN HILARIOUS SEVENTIES HAIR JOKE].

My friends, 1978 has a lot to answer for.  We shall not even speak of the disco cover of MacArthur Park.  Or the Sgt. Pepper movie.  My God, The Sgt. Pepper movie.

But, like all years, 'twere gold among the dross... in defense of my natal annum, I give you five quite defensible bits of 1978:

(You knew there was gonna be some Darkness on this list, yes?  I can't help but smile as I remember what a pain in the butt it was to *ahem* acquire this show in the days before swapping videos became so ludicrously simple...)

Send lawyers, guns, and money/ Dad get me out of this...  Huh, I could absolutely swear I heard this recently, on the South Side...  huh.

Anyone else have a sudden and profound desire to watch Shaun of the Dead?

Hey, sorry about the cruddy cell phone video...

(Waiting...  waiting...  ahh, good, some of you are like "But we didn't HAVE cell....  OH!  I see what you did there.  Ha!"  The rest of you answered the Facebook challenge with "Ice, Ice Baby" and completely suck because you have been busily making me feel extremely old all week.)

Right?  Right?  RIGHT!!!

January 4, 2012

Cornball Humor

The first week of a new year never quite seems sure of itself.  A strange partial workweek.  The slightly sad and faded deshabille of a house being denuded of its assorted Christmas bric-a-brac.  A semi-return to television normality--a mere two days of The Daily Show, but with the return of Gitmo and Muppet Michael Steele!  (Aside from, you know, a chalice filled to the brim with my enemies' tears, what more could a girl want?)

Add to this odds-and-ends week the quirky exercise in bespoke democracy known as the Iowa Caucus.  Is it just a tad silly that one lone state gets such a disproportionate amount of attention come election year, thanks to its 1.) going first and 2.) spicing up the narrative a bit with a variation on the tiresome old "registered voters quietly casting ballots" routine?  No, it is not.  It is a ginormous, heaping, ethanol-heated corn steamer of silly.
Silly is delicious with just
a dab of butter and salt.

Much as humanity figured out how to convert corn to fuel, Dan Savage managed to convert former Senator and Aging Jerry Seinfeld Impersonator Rick Santorum from a ludicrous yet potentially dangerous wingnut prude to a ludicrous yet potentially dangerous wingnut prude whose name means something multifacetedly filthy.  It has been a truly glorious couple of days of double entendre headline-writing, unparalleled to date in American history.  Why, it's almost enough to make you forget that it looks like he won the damned thing.  (As I write, the results are still, uh, muddy.) (Hee.)

January 2, 2012

Shameless Plug: Toe-Tappin' Goodness Edition

Starting this Sunday, January 8, The Pittsburgh Jazz Society will be resuming weekly concerts in its brand-new location, the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy.  (Remember the James Street Tavern?  Yep, 'tis open again, under new management.)

This week...  The Lucarelli Brothers, featuring Lou Schreiber and Don Aliquo. The show runs from 6 to 9 PM; as always, it will be hosted by The Pittsburgh Jazz Channel's Tony Mowod.

And, gloriously, there is free parking and no cover.  Come on out!

Click the links for...

First And Ten

Here we are, folks, tremblingly ready to sully the honor of this fresh new year. With two days down and 364 to go--February 29 comes FREE with purchase of 2012--I am already cautiously optimistic that Things Are Looking Up. Ever so cautiously, since it has to be said that January has not been particularly good to me for some years now, and in fact has been kind of a flaming infected boil in the Secondmost calendar. But there is hope, and there is coolness in the offing, and thus far the things breaking in my house have been relatively minor. (Fingers crossed!) (Also, note that in the relativist playground that is my nightmare bottomless money pit of an abode, a dead fridge is "minor.")

I've never been big into New Year's resolutions. I don't look at a new year's mere existence to motivate, I don't know, weight loss? A fearless career move? Going back to school? Nope. Those things happen for reasons far more profound than an old calendar hitting the trash.

But, as the coffee grounds and potato peelings pile up on top of the 2011 calendar, it seems a good time to take stock. To honor the profound changes that the last year brought. To regard hard-won lessons--both the knowledge gained and the tears tendered for it.

It is time now to build this new year, to be guided and chastened by all that has been before.